Living Life on Hold
Even after ten years in Israel, it still blows my mind that the world revolves around the Jewish calendar in these parts. I'm watching the evening news, and the incredibly serious Mideast analyst intones, "The Turkish decision as to whether or not to allow U.S. troops to launch an attack from their territory means the difference between a Purim war or a Passover war." It conjures up such vivid images in my mind: are my kids going to be huddled in a bomb shelter in their pirate and princess costumes, or might we conduct our seder in our sealed room? And if so, how exactly will we hide the afikomen?
There are a lot of calming noises coming from the government. They repeat like a mantra the fact that they believe that Iraq has far less capability than they did in 1991 -- at least conventional capability -- and we have a lot better defensive weapons than we did in 1991. It is a vast contrast between what I saw when I visited the U.S. in February. The dynamic was completely the opposite in America -- the government was trying to get everyone mentally prepared for a terror attack, and it almost seemed, super panicked -- and most people I knew were just refusing to buy into it. Here in Israel, everyone seems ready to break out the masks and dive into shelters at any second, and the government and the army are telling them to chill out.
Existential worries aside, what is driving many of us nuts over here on a personal level is the inability to plan your life. You are afraid to plan a birthday party too far ahead of time because there might be a war, you can't plan a trip abroad and leave the kids with your in-laws because there might be a war and you could get stuck overseas.
So you obsessively check CNN and Fox News, compare them to the reports in the Israeli media, and surf the Internet hourly, trying to get a handle on what exactly is going to happen when so you can plan something more than 48 hours ahead of time.
Yeah, yeah, I know this seems trivial and bourgeois in comparison to the huge problems caused by the prospect of war, like the economy and investment climate and worse, the indefinite postponement of really confronting the burning Israel-Palestinian conflict in a meaningful way. But trust me, it's not easy: it raises the overall irritability level tremendously.
The calmest people I know are my friends who plant their heads deliberately in the sand and refuse to read a paper or listen to the radio. All they want to talk about is whether they are going to see "Chicago" or "The Hours" first and what costume their kid wants to wear for Purim. I rather envy them. It's not easy being a news junkie.